Black Canary (Ed Benes, artist)
|First appearance||Flash Comics #86
|Created by||Robert Kanigher
|Alter ego||Dinah Drake Lance
Dinah Laurel Lance
Dinah Lance (née Drake)
|Team affiliations||Justice Society of America
Birds of Prey
Huntress (Helena Bertinelli)
|Notable aliases||Siu Jerk Jai, Agent Canary, D.D.|
|Abilities||Grandmaster in various types of combat, "Canary Cry" (ultrasonic scream), motorcycling, master gymnast and talented singer.|
Black Canary, alias of Dinah Lance (née Drake), is a fictional superheroine in comic books published by DC Comics. Created by the writer-artist team of Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino, the character debuted in Flash Comics #86 (August 1947). One of DC's earliest super-heroines, Black Canary has appeared in many of the company's flagship team-up titles (including Justice Society of America and Justice League of America). Since the late 1960s the character has frequently been paired with archer superhero Green Arrow professionally and romantically, and they eventually married.
At her Golden Age of Comic Books debut, Black Canary was the alter ego of Dinah Drake and participated in crime-fighting adventures with her love interest (and eventual husband), Gotham City detective Larry Lance. Although she did not have superpowers, the character was a hand-to-hand fighter who frequently posed as a criminal to infiltrate organized crime. Black Canary was a member of the Justice Society of America, the first comic-book superhero team. Later, Silver Age of Comic Books stories depicted her as a world-class martial artist with a superpower: the "Canary Cry", a high-powered sonic scream which could shatter objects and incapacitate enemies. DC Comics adjusted its continuity, explaining that Black Canary was two characters: mother and daughter Dinah Drake and Dinah Laurel Lance. Stories since the Silver Age have focused on the younger Black Canary, ascribing her superhuman abilities to a genetic mutation. In 2011 DC Comics again reset its continuity, establishing Black Canary as a singular superpowered heroine and former Team 7 agent, Dinah Lance (née Drake).
Black Canary has been adapted into various media, and has received renown for her major roles in Birds of Prey, Justice League Unlimited, Smallville, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Young Justice and more recently CW's Arrow. The character is ranked the 71st-greatest comic-book character of all time by Wizard, and IGN rated her its 81st-greatest all-time comic-book hero. She was number 26 on Comics Buyer's Guide's "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list.
Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino created the character in 1947 to be featured in Flash Comics as a supporting character. Appearing first as a clandestine crime-fighter who infiltrates criminal organizations to break them from the inside, Black Canary was drawn with fishnets and a black leather jacket to connote images of a sexualized yet strong female character. She appeared as a character in a back-up story featuring Johnny Thunder:
I was drawing Johnny Thunder, which was not much of a character. I suppose he could have been better because his 'Thunderbolt' was interesting, but the situations they were in were pretty juvenile. Bob Kanigher wrote those stories, and he had no respect for the characters. These stories were nowhere near as good as 'The Flash' stories. DC knew it -- they knew 'Johnny Thunder' was a loser, so Kanigher and I brought the Black Canary into the series. Immediately she got a good response, and it was, 'Bye, bye, Johnny Thunder.' Nobody missed him." —Carmine Infantino
According to Amash & Nolen-Weathington (2010), Black Canary is "really" Carmine Infantino's "first character." According to the famed artist: "When Kanigher gave me the script, I said, 'How do you want me to draw her?' He said, 'What's your fantasy of a good-looking girl? That's what I want.' Isn't that a great line? So that's what I did. I made her strong in character and sexy in form. The funny part is that years later, while in Korea on a National Cartoonists trip, I met a dancer who was the exact image of the Black Canary. And I went out with her for three years.
Bob didn't ask me for a character sketch [for the Black Canary]. He had a lot of respect for me, I must say that. He always trusted my work . . . Bob loved my Black Canary design."
Fictional character biography
Dinah Drake first appears in Flash Comics #86 (August 1947) as a supporting character in the "Johnny Thunder" feature, written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Carmine Infantino. Initially, she seems to be a villain; Johnny Thunder is instantly infatuated with her, and is reproached by his Thunderbolt. In fact, she is infiltrating a criminal gang.
In Flash Comics #92 (February 1948) she has her own anthology feature, "Black Canary", replacing "Johnny Thunder". The new series fleshed out Black Canary's backstory: Dinah Drake was a black-haired florist in love with Larry Lance, a Gotham City Police Department detective. She first meets the Justice Society of America in All Star Comics #38 (December 1947-January 1948), joining them in All Star Comics #41 (June–July 1948).
Black Canary is revived with the other Golden Age characters during the 1960s, and lives on the parallel world of Earth-Two (home of DC's Golden Age versions of its characters). Married to Larry Lance since the 1950s, Dinah participates in annual team-ups between the Justice Society and Earth-One's Justice League of America.
In a 1969 JLA-JSA team-up against the rogue star-creature Aquarius, who banished Earth-2's inhabitants (except the JSA) to another dimension, Larry Lance is killed saving Dinah's life and Aquarius is defeated. Grief-stricken, Canary moves to Earth-One and joins the Justice League. She begins a relationship with JLA colleague Green Arrow and discovers that she has developed an ultrasonic scream, the Canary Cry.
Black Canary joins Batman five times in The Brave and the Bold and Superman once (in DC Comics Presents). Appearing frequently as a guest in the "Green Arrow" backup feature of Action Comics, she was a backup feature in World's Finest Comics #244 (April–May 1977) to #256 (April–May 1979) (when the title was in Dollar Comics format). Black Canary's backstory was featured in DC Special Series #10 (April 1978). After the "Black Canary" feature in World's Finest Comics, she appears as a guest in its "Green Arrow" feature and in Detective Comics.
In Justice League of America #219 and #220 (October and November 1983), Black Canary is the daughter of the original Black Canary. Born during the 1950s, the infant is cursed by the Wizard with a devastating Canary Cry. When Dinah asks her friend Johnny Thunder to summon his Thunderbolt to cure her, the Thunderbolt keeps the child in suspended animation in his Thunderbolt dimension. The Thunderbolt erases the child's memory, and everyone thinks she is dead.
After the battle with Aquarius, Dinah realizes she is dying from radiation exposure and discusses a solution with the Thunderbolt and the Earth-1 Superman. They transfer Dinah's memories into the body of her now-adult daughter (still in suspended animation), not letting Dinah know that anything unusual has happened. This retcon dealt with Black Canary's activity since the late 1940s (making her nearly 60 years old).
After the 1983 retroactive continuity change Black Canary became mother-and-daughter characters Dinah Drake Lance and Dinah Laurel Lance, with the younger Dinah the current Black Canary. Although some references (for example, those in James Robinson's Starman series) tried to distinguish the two Canaries by calling the first "Diana", recent accounts have confirmed Dinah as the mother's given name.
A miniseries by writer Greg Weisman and artist Mike Sekowsky was planned in 1984. Although its first issue was pencilled, the project was shelved due to the character's use in writer-artist Mike Grell's high-profile Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters series. Elements of the project were used in Weisman's short film, DC Showcase: Green Arrow.
In Secret Origins #50 (August 1990) the first Dinah is trained by her father, detective Richard Drake, intending to follow him on the Gotham City police force. When she is turned down, her disillusioned father dies shortly afterwards. Determined to honor his memory, Dinah fights crime and corruption by any possible means. She becomes a costumed vigilante, using her inheritance to open a flower shop as her day job.
Dinah marries her lover, private eye Larry Lance, and keeps her flower shop. In a Birds of Prey retrospective, Lance is an acquaintance of Jim Gordon (father of Barbara Gordon). Several years later their daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance, is born. In Birds of Prey #66 (June 2004), a flashback of a cold case investigated by the elder Dinah, Laurel was the name of a librarian Dinah befriended during the case.
Dinah Lance grows up surrounded by her mother's friends in the disbanded JSA (seeing them as uncles and aunts), and wants to be a costumed hero like her mother. The elder Dinah discourages her, feeling that the world has become too dangerous for her daughter to succeed.
Younger Dinah has her own "Canary Cry"—in this version, the result of a metagene absent from both her parents—which (unlike the Silver Age Black Canary) she can control. With this weapon, young Dinah finds fighters (including former JSA member Wildcat) who help her hone her skills. After years of dedication and training Dinah assumes her mother's mantle, despite the latter's opposition. Like her mother Dinah operates out of Gotham, with a day job in the family floral business.
In an early Birds of Prey issue, writer Chuck Dixon has Dinah briefly married and divorced at a young age. Although ex-husband Craig Windrow seems to need her help, he actually wants to reconcile after he embezzles from the mob. Dinah's early marriage and ex-husband are not mentioned again until the 2007 Black Canary limited series.
After joining the Justice League, Dinah meets Green Arrow (Oliver Queen). Although she dislikes him at first, they become romantically involved despite their age difference; opposite the earlier depiction, in the Modern Age stories Oliver is considerably older than Dinah. Dinah is a League member for about six years, including a brief stint with Justice League International (JLI, which she helps found). After her mother's death from radiation poisoning received during her battle with Aquarius, Dinah feels that her time in the JLA is over. She moves to Seattle with Green Arrow and opens a flower shop, Sherwood Florist.
When Dinah belonged to the JLI during the 1980s she wore a new costume, a blue-and-black full-body jumpsuit with a bird motif and a slightly looser fit instead of her traditional, skin-tight black outfit with fishnet stockings. The change was poorly received and short-lived, and later artists restored her original look.
Birds of Prey
When former Batgirl Barbara Gordon is seriously injured by the Joker, she reestablishes her crime-fighting career as Oracle, information broker to the superhero community. After briefly working with the Suicide Squad, she forms a covert-mission team. Since Barbara thinks that of all the superheroes Dinah has the most potential, Oracle asks Black Canary to become an operative.
Black Canary reinvents herself, trading her blonde wig for bleached blonde hair. Her relationship with Oracle is rocky at first, since her impulsiveness clashes with Oracle's organization. Gradually, they learn to work together and became friends. When Oracle flees from Blockbuster Dinah rescues her and meets Barbara Gordon, deepening their friendship.
Infinite Crisis gives Earth a new timeline, with Wonder Woman again a founding member of the Justice League. In a Week 51 back-up feature of 52, Black Canary is at the battle which forms the League. Its core is Black Canary, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), the Martian Manhunter, the Flash (Barry Allen), Aquaman, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. In the 2007 Black Canary miniseries, she and Green Arrow join the Justice League after its founding and are tested by founding member Batman early in their membership.
During publication of the Infinite Crisis limited series, most DC Universe comic books advanced one year. After this "One Year Later" jump, Dinah trades life experiences with Lady Shiva to soften the warrior and begins a harsh training regimen in an unidentified Vietnamese shanty town. The regimen replicates Shiva's early life and training, and Shiva assumes Dinah's role in Oracle's group.
During Countdown, several series include tie-ins and run-ups to the wedding of Dinah and Ollie. The Black Canary Wedding Planner details the preparations; in Birds of Prey #109, Dinah and Barbara discuss the wedding (and Ollie). Countdown: Justice League Wedding Special, and Justice League #13 deal with the bachelor and bachelorette parties. A plot thread throughout is a plan by the Injustice League to attack the wedding.
Dinah resigns as JLA chairwoman after the team's confrontation with the Shadow Cabinet. After learning that Ollie began his own Justice League with Hal Jordan, she confronts him when he arrives at the Watchtower to warn her of an attack on the world's superheroes. Prometheus arrives and attacks the team, severing Red Arrow's arm and maneuvering Dinah into the path of an energy bolt fired by Mikaal Tomas. After Prometheus is defeated, he destroys Star City with a teleportation device. In their search for survivors Dinah and Ollie discover the bloody body of Roy's daughter, Lian. Dinah goes to Roy's hospital bedside with Donna Troy to break the news about his daughter when he emerges from his coma.
In Blackest Night, Dinah travels to Coast City to fight Nekron's army of Black Lanterns. According to Nekron, he can control the heroes (including Ollie) who have died and been resurrected. Dinah fights her husband, now a Black Lantern, with Mia and Connor. Ollie regains control of his body long enough to miss his wife with a shot which severs a hose containing liquid nitrogen. Dinah orders Connor to use the hose on Ollie, freezing him solid, and the three join the rest of the heroes in battle.
When Ollie returns to normal, it is discovered that he secretly murdered Prometheus and left his body to rot at his headquarters. After Barry Allen and Hal Jordan confront Ollie and Dinah with the news, Ollie escapes. Dinah, Hal and Barry search the ruins of Star City for him, finding him looking for one of the men who worked for Prometheus. Ollie overpowers them, leaving Dinah in a restraining fluid. After Green Arrow surrenders for Prometheus' murder, Dinah visits him in jail and realizes that he wants to be left alone. She removes her wedding ring, leaving it with him, and does not attend his trial.
In Brightest Day, Dinah returns to Gotham in a relaunch of Birds of Prey with Gail Simone. In Birds of Prey #1 (July 2010), she is sent to save a child with Lady Blackhawk. After receiving a call from Oracle, the team (including Huntress) is reunited. They are confronted by a new villainess, White Canary, who has a grudge against Dinah and exposes her civilian identity. After capturing White Canary (the vengeful sister of the Twelve Brothers in Silk), Dinah learns that Lady Shiva is behind the attack on the Birds. Dinah and White Canary travel to Asia; when the Birds arrive a short time later, Dinah attacks them dressed as White Canary.
The New 52
In the New 52 Dinah Lance, a founding member of the Birds of Prey, recruits the team—beginning with her friend Ev Crawford, known as Starling. Eventually Katana and Poison Ivy also join the team. Initially reluctant to join, Batgirl becomes a regular addition to the cast by the fourth issue of the series. Black Canary's maiden name is Dinah Drake instead of Lance (based on the original character), and was never married to Oliver Queen in this continuity. Black Canary joins Team 7 in a flashback, and is drafted into the Justice League to assist in the "Throne of Atlantis" crossover, and after which she remains a reserve member.
Although the Black Canary-Zatanna graphic novel Bloodspell (written by Paul Dini and drawn by Joe Quinones) was scheduled for a 2012 release, it was delayed until May 2014. The story centers around the meeting of 16-year-old Dinah and Zatanna.
Powers, abilities and equipment
The original Black Canary had no superpowers, but was a prodigious fighter, and over the years, Black Canary's stories emphasized her physical skills and fighting prowess over inborn abilities. She is regarded as one of the DC Universe's top martial artists and she is regularly paired up in fights against high-tier fighters like Lady Shiva. Her quick reflexes enable her to catch (or destroy) arrows in flight, and she is an expert motorcyclist.
Due to the strong, yet uncontrollable, nature of her superpowers, she tends to only make use of them in urgent situations. During times of stress, the Black Canary creates sonic vibrations capable of destroying whatever is obstructing her mouth. This ability is called the Canary Cry. For a period of time, the Black Canary lost her Canary Cry during the Green Arrow series, but eventually regained it following immersion in a Lazarus Pit in an issue of Birds of Prey some years later.
Following The New 52 reboot, Dinah first comes into her powers as an adult after being tested positive for metagene by her bosses in Team 7. After her husband is shot, she unleashes her devastating Canary Cry. In this era, writers expanded the potential application of the Cry. In Birds of Prey #10 (2012), Black Canary glides across a gorge over sonic waves, explaining that she has been holding back since her husband died. In later issues she uses the Canary Cry to glide/fly long distances.
- JLA: The Nail
- In JLA: The Nail, Black Canary leads the Outsiders after Oliver Queen is crippled by Amazo; the partnership dissolves when Queen says he feels like a mascot. In a previous battle, the character's sonic scream and Black Lightning's blasts vaporize Brainiac.
- Kingdom Come
- In the DC Elseworlds comic Kingdom Come, Black Canary and Green Arrow are Batman's generals. In this future world, the romantic partners have a daughter: Olivia Queen, also known as Black Canary.
- Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl
- In another DC Elseworlds comic, Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl, Black Canary is an African American woman who makes a brief appearance.
- All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder
- Frank Miller's All Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, drawn by Jim Lee, features a character based on Black Canary. An immigrant from County Monaghan, Ireland, she is an unnamed barmaid in the seedy Black Canary.
- The Dark Knight Strikes Again
- In The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Black Canary (a dumb blonde of unspecified age) is a member of the Superchix, a pop-music trio.
- League of Justice
- Black Canary is goddess-like in "League of Justice", a Lord of the Rings-type Elseworlds story. Although she has many names, she is most commonly called "the lady of the birds". Her hair is blonde on one side and black on the other.
- In Justice, the widowed Black Canary is involved with Green Arrow.
- In the 52 multiverse, an African-American Black Canary is a member of the Crime Society. In JLA: Earth 2, White Cat is an evil counterpart of Black Canary.
- On Earth-11, a world of reversed genders, Black Condor is a male version of Black Canary.
- In the Superman/Batman storyline "Mash-Up", elements of Black Canary combine with Starfire, creating Star Canary.
- Justice League: Generation Lost
- An African-American version of Black Canary is part of a future Justice League in Justice League: Generation Lost. She is a descendant of Black Canary's teammates Hawk and Dove.
In other media
Although she has a lower profile than DC flagship characters Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, Black Canary has appeared in live-action and animated adaptations of DC properties and in video games based on the comic books.
Black Canary's first live-action appearance was Danulta Wesley's 1979 portrayal in NBC's two Legends of the Superheroes specials. The character appeared in the short-lived 2002 television series Birds of Prey, an adaptation of the comic book. Dinah Lance became Dinah Redmond (played by Rachel Skarsten), a teenage runaway with psychic powers. Her mother Carolyn Lance (played by Lori Loughlin) was Black Canary with a supersonic Canary Cry. In 2008, Smallville introduced Black Canary (played by Alaina Huffman) as an assassin who is recruited for Green Arrow's team of superheroes. She appears in a number of episodes, including several season premieres and finales.
The 2012 television series Arrow features Dinah Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), commonly known as Laurel, an attorney who is the ex-girlfriend of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell). Her mother is Dinah Lance (Alex Kingston). In the second season, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz)[Note 1] appears in Starling City as the Canary. She leaves Starling City after helping Oliver defeat Deathstroke (Manu Bennett), handing her Canary jacket to Laurel. In the third season, Laurel takes over Sara's mantle as the Black Canary after her sister is murdered by Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), and following some training from former vigilante Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez). Later Ra's al Ghul's (Matthew Nable) daughter Nyssa (Katrina Law) offers to train Laurel, which she accepts, and Laurel gradually becomes a skilled fighter and is accepted by Oliver as a worthy vigilante. The character also appears in a crossover with The Flash; mechanical genius Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) also provides an ultrasonic collar for Laurel, and requests she name its effect the Canary Cry. In the new spin-off series Legends of Tomorrow, Sara is resurrected and now goes by the name White Canary.
Animated depictions of Black Canary have largely been faithful to the source material. The Dinah Drake version is the basis of the character Donna Vance, the Black Siren (voiced by Jennifer Hale), in the Justice League animated series episode "Legends" (2002). The Dinah Laurel Lance version (voiced by Morena Baccarin) appears in the sequel series Justice League Unlimited (2004–2006), where she is a member of the Justice League, develops a romantic relationship with Green Arrow and a partnership with Huntress during the series.
Young Justice (2010–2013) features Black Canary (voiced by Vanessa Marshall) as a member of the Justice League and combat trainer for the show's team of teenage superheroes. Her relationship with Green Arrow links her to his family of superheroes.
Jennifer Hale and Grey DeLisle reprise the character in video games, appearing in Justice League Heroes for PlayStation Portable and Batman: The Brave and the Bold – The Videogame respectively. In DC Universe Online, Black Canary is a non-playable character voiced by Kelley Huston. The character appears in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes and in Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham voiced by Kari Wahlgren.
- Jacqueline MacInnes Wood portrays Sara in the series' pilot and in still photography in season one, before the casting of Lotz.
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Debuting as a supporting character in a six-page Johnny Thunder feature written by Robert Kanigher and penciled by Carmine Infantino, Dinah Drake [the Black Canary] was originally presented as a villain.
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[Carmine] Infantino and writer Robert Kanigher were evidently tired of Johnny Thunder's comical antics and eager to promote the Black Canary, who in February 1948 bumped Johnny from both Flash Comics and the Justice Society stories in All Star Comics.
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- JSA Fact File: Black Canary I
- Earth-2 Black Canary at Mike's Amazing World of Comics
- Earth-1 Black Canary at Mike's Amazing World of Comics
- Cosmic Teams: Black Canary I & II